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Mistakes for Dentists to Avoid When Considering Retirement

In 2014, the average dental salary was $166,000, making it one of the top ten earning professions in the country. Those statistics mean that dentists have a great base when it comes to planning for retirement. However, as with any entrepreneur, owning a practice usually means you have a large list of tasks and priorities that you need to address on a daily basis.

It may have been your dream to sell your practice and move to another country to live out the rest of your days, but if you haven’t got all your affairs in order, the dream can quickly become very stressful.

Here are some mistakes to avoid when planning for retirement

Not Setting Clear Goals

A successful retirement requires you to establish concrete goals. Do you want to buy a house by the beach? Do you want to pass on $20,000 to each of your children? At what age do you want to stop working completely? Do you want to travel? These are all important questions to ask when setting goals.

Make sure you have a detailed plan in play in order to ensure that your transition into retirement is as stress-free as possible.

Not Investing Outside the Practice

A lot of dentists spend their time re-investing everything they earn into a practice for years in order to ensure growth, but it’s important to consider other means of income. If you haven’t done so already, setting up an automated savings program is important to consider when you’re planning for retirement. Remember that the earlier you start saving the better, as it takes years for compound interest to provide rewards.

Not Handling Your Debt Before Retiring

When you run a busy practice it’s easy to fall into the habit of avoiding or overlooking pressing debt issues. This, however, is a huge pitfall. Make sure all your personal debts are taken care of before you consider retirement, whether they are related to the business, your property or vehicles.

Spending Too Much

Earning a comfortable living as a young dentist can create some unhealthy spending habits. Over time you may chip away at your income and end up with a lot less money for retirement than you otherwise would have expected. Habits are very difficult to break, so the sooner you get started making sure all your spending is in check, the better.

Consider hiring a transition expert to help prepare you and your practice for retirement.


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Preparing Your Dental Practice for Seasonal Ups and Downs

Like any other business, dental practices experience seasonal ups and downs. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself busy during the slow seasons in preparation for a successful 2017.

  1. Take A Vacation

Practicing self-care isn’t just about eating right and getting enough sleep. Allowing yourself to take some time off when dental appointments slow down can help you reduce your stress levels. Allow yourself to take a vacation when times are quiet. This is preferable to planning something over the holidays or summer break, which are typically busy months because children are out of school.

Taking a vacation will also recharge your batteries and help you prepare for a busy year ahead.

  1. Remodel or Redecorate

If you wanted to repaint the inside of your practice, have new floors put in or remodel your waiting room, the slow seasons are a great time to renovate or refresh your office. In fact, even if you don’t have plans to do any major renovations, it would be wise to give your practice a decent deep clean while business is slow.

  1. Start Canvassing for New Patients

If you have a marketing plan to get new patients for 2017, the end of 2016 is an even better time to start. Create your marketing pitch and strategy to gain new patients. What activities can you plan month-to-month to keep your practice active and visible in your marketing channels of choice?

Social media is an excellent tool for getting the word out about your services. We recommend actively utilizing any of the popular social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) to connect with potential patients, colleagues and influencers in your community.

  1. Focus on Your Strengths

How can you differentiate yourself from your competition? What are your strengths as a dental professional? What do your patients need? What qualities does your practice have that differentiate you from your competitors?

Focus your 2017 marketing budget on the services that drive your practice and send your patients a clear message that your office out-performs the competition.

  1. Increase Bridge and Crown Production

Research shows that December, January and February are the busiest times for dental practices, in terms of bridges and crowns. This is because most people want to use up their dental insurance before the new cycle kicks in. Make sure your office is well-equipped to handle the rush of procedures that increase during the busier times of the year.


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How to Keep Staff Morale Up When Preparing to Sell Your Dental Practice

Planning a dental practice transition is stressful, particularly for any staff members who are employed by the practice. A functional and stable team is a crucial component of a successful dental practice transition, and it’s important that your staff convey a positive message to the world outside your practice walls.

These tips will help your staff make your practice transition a little easier.

Never Underestimate the Power of Preparation

The more notice you can give your staff, the better. Time helps people come to terms with change. Provide your staff with a basic overview of the transition timeline and schedule time to discuss any questions and concerns with your employees.

Also remember that different people adapt to change differently and in different ways. Consider enough time for the slowest adaptors to come to terms with the shift.

Communicate About What is Happening

If you decide to have your practice valued, let your staff know that you are considering selling your practice. You don’t have to divulge every small detail, but your transparency and willingness to discuss your future plans will have a direct bearing on the comfort levels of your staff.

Your staff members want to know where they stand with you, so tell them. Speak about the stuff that matters. Will working hours change? Can you secure the employee’s next raise before your departure?

Manage Your Own Stress Levels

If you find the transition stressful, it’s likely that your staff will sense it. Prepare yourself and make informed choices to cope with the pressures of the transition. If you are on top of things, your team will experience less stress about the process.

Treat Each Staff Member as an Individual

When it is time to make an official announcement, communicate with each team member on a personal level. It is important to acknowledge the individual contributions of each staff member in question.

Take time to discuss the staff member’s job security. Explain how important it is that the practice gets their support during this time of transition. Ask each staff member to support the new practice owner and reassure your employees that the new owner has been properly vetted. Your staff members have trusted your judgment for this long. Now is a good time to speak to that and request its continuation.

Promote the Team Approach

Explain how you have sought out professional support for the transition, and that you have the services of a transition expert, accountant, lawyer, and mentor to assist you.


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Get to Know Your New Staff After Purchasing an Established Dental Practice

It’s common for current employees to feel scared, insecure, or intimidated by the transition process so building those interpersonal connections is of the utmost importance. Here are some ways you can do that.

An Honest One-On-One Meeting

The biggest sources of employees’ negative feelings will involve the potential changes that you, as the new practice owner, may introduce. The changes that could evoke negative emotions are the things that affect the employee directly: benefits, working hours, roles and responsibilities, or even keeping their jobs at all. Have a private discussion with each staff member to address these issues directly and as they relate to the employee in question.

Tell each staff member what is expected of him or her, and what your practice philosophy will be. In the event that certain decisions have not yet been made, let the employee know when the decision will be reached. Transparency and honesty form a great foundation for an effective working relationship.

Schedule Individual Training Sessions

Perhaps you worked with a super efficient receptionist in the past, or an extremely diligent nurse who ran your previous practice like clockwork. Whatever the circumstance, you may want to introduce some changes to processes and behaviors.

Hold individual training sessions with each staff member to explain your expectations within each person’s designated role. Don’t expect people to change their habits or behaviors overnight.

Note Feedback

The employees who have been with the practice the longest are likely to have a good rapport with the patients. They will also have witnessed a different management style, so when you are building a new culture, it is worth taking feedback from the staff.

Check Employee Files

Have a look at each employee’s record. If the previous practice owner was well organized you should be able to tell a fair amount about each person. This is a good time to ensure all paperwork is up to date and compliant.

Ask for 360 Degree Feedback

Ask the outgoing practice owner to write character profiles on the staff. Find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Ask how well they function within a team. Ask staff members to evaluate different members of the team.

Don’t worry about timing. Transitions can go slowly and when people are involved moving slowly has more long term benefit than rushing ahead.


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The Importance of Client Testimonials and How to Use them to Grow Your Practice

Client testimonials can be one of the most important components of your marketing strategy. Many patients looking for dentists rely on word-of-mouth marketing – testimonials from friends and those they trust. Studies show that customer feedback can have a greater impact on your marketing results than other marketing avenues.

 

Testimonials for your dental practice can be collected in a variety of ways and can be used across multiple marketing channels.

 

Here are some tips on how to easily get testimonials and how to best use them:

 

  1. Ask for testimonials.  Most patients are happy to share their positive experiences with others and may not realize how much you value those testimonials if you don’t ask for them.
  2. Make it easy for them. Have postcards available at the checkout counter for patients to fill out as they checkout, send an email with a short survey (no more than 3 questions), or even ask if you can quote them if they share in their conversation how wonderful their experience was.
  3. Provide prompts. Prompts help develop the kind of testimonial you need. Ask leading questions that guide them. For example, you can ask them to list their concerns before their visit, how you addressed those concerns, and where you exceeded their expectations. Even something as simple as “Would you recommend us to a friend?” can be the start of a great testimonial.
  4. Think outside the box. A video testimonial of a happy patient is great to load on your Facebook page and can be a quick and easy way to grab a testimonial from a patient. Make sure you have them sign any appropriate release forms before putting their videos online.
  5. Use the power of social media. Let your patients know through your marketing materials that they can leave reviews on social media sites. Facebook make this very easy for users.
  6. Share patient testimonials in all of your marketing materials. When patients see others testimonials it reminds them how much you value their feedback and can prompt them to provide you with their own testimonial.

Dental practice transitions can be a great time to assess your testimonials and determine if you need to improve your methods for collecting them. Regardless of where you are in a transition or if you’re just beginning to grow your practice these tips will help you easily improve your marketing strategies.


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The Best Images for Your Dental Practice Website

Whether you’re preparing for a dental transition or just trying to grow your practice, images on your website make a difference. High-quality images have the power to educate patients and give them confidence in your practice’s ability to provide outstanding service. They are also an important part of developing your visual brand. Great images make your site more attractive overall, giving your practice a more professional and polished image.

As you select images for your website, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Only use professional photos and images. Photos used should always be of the highest quality. Save your smartphone photos for your social media pages. Website photos need to be high quality and professional. It’s worth it to hire an experienced photographer to take images of what goes on inside your practice.
  2. Include photos of your practice. Pictures of the reception area, exam areas, and staff allow those viewing your website to feel like they know what to expect before they walk into your practice. This provides patients with an increased sense of comfort and confidence and can be helpful for those patients with dental anxiety.
  3. Include pictures of patients when possible. Try to get pictures of patients and shots of the staff interacting with them. These extra steps provide authenticity, warmth, and character to your website.
  4. Details matter. Emphasize the atmosphere of your office and waiting areas by focusing on the small details. Many people seek out practices that have a more homey feel to them, as opposed to a clinical looking office. Make sure you have some well-placed flowers or plants, reading materials, and nice décor and that these small touches are captured in your images. Do you provide TV’s for the patients to watch while they have procedures done? If so, capture that in your photographs.
  5. Keep stock photos to a minimum. Stock photos are best utilized for images that show diagrams of dental procedures or professional/medical details. When picking stock photos use unique images and avoid those that you see in other dentists marketing material.
  6. Consider a before and after patient photo gallery. These are essentially pictorial testimonials and can boost business. Make sure the photos are all taken in the same place so that the backgrounds are consistent and always the same size. Have the patient smile naturally to show the before and after images best.
  7. Try to get photographs in both horizontal and vertical settings. This allows them to be placed where most needed on the website.

Images are an important element to draw people to your website and  into your practice. If you’re selling a dental practice your website and the images you include can make the difference in attracting potential buyers, as well as new patients.


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What Makes a Buyer Qualified?

Finding a qualified buyer for your practice can be a bit like searching for the Holy Grail—you want to make sure that the person stepping into ownership of the practice you built is someone you feel comfortable leaving your legacy.

Before you sell, consider what makes a potential buyer qualified.

Is the buyer a dentist?

This is a given, but it must be included in the list because it is one of the most important things to consider when selling your practice. You’ll need to know more than the potential buyer’s degree. Take note of their specialty, the number of years they’ve been practicing, and the amount of experience they bring to the practice.

Is the buyer a recent graduate? Have they put in decades of work in another practice before deciding to buy their own? Do they specialize in the same area as you?

Is the buyer financed?

Common sense dictates that a buyer will obtain financing before approaching a seller, however, that’s not always the case. There are numerous commercial real estate cases where the buyer puts the cart before the horse, committing to the purchase of a practice before their financing has been authorized.

A qualified buyer will have preapproval in hand before beginning their search for a practice to buy. Preapproval means they’ve already jumped through most of the red tape and credit check hoops, which means you have less paperwork and hassle after you accept their offer.

Is the buyer keeping your staff?

Your staff has likely become part of your family, and you consider them to be an important part of your life.

If the buyer wants to buy the property, they need to consider your staff as part of the deal. Unless previously stated in the purchase documentation, your staff stays with the practice. This means the buyer isn’t just buying a building and an inventory, he is committing to keep the practice running smoothly and profitably.

Before signing on the dotted line, invite the buyer to meet with your staff. Watch how they interact with them, look for any push back from your staff, and make sure that the match (between the potential buyer and your staff) feels right.

Ask they staff what they think about the buyer, and be sure to take what they say into consideration when choosing a final buyer.

Does the buyer have a good reputation in the community?

A good way to gauge if a buyer is right for your practice is to check online to see what their patients are saying about them.

If they are purchasing your practice, they are also acquiring your patients. You want to make sure that the people you’ve treated over the years continue to receive the same, or higher, level of care.

If the reviews or ratings online foreshadow a poor level of care, consider another buyer.

This list of qualifications isn’t a ruler by which to measure your potential buyers, it is more a guidebook for what to consider when selling your practice. If you’d like more information about what to expect from buyers or what to expect from the dental practice transition process, contact our transition specialists.


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4 Important Tips for Letting Go of Your Dental Staff

Letting go of your staff can be a difficult issue.

Let’s be honest, we live in a very litigious society, and while this may not be a huge hassle for big corporations with huge budgets, for small business owners it can be an absolute minefield.

If you are not careful with how you handle certain situations, you can unfortunately, be held liable for a number of legal violations, which can negatively impact the health of your business.

Whether you are looking to sell your practice or not, a healthy ecology between staff members is vital for maintaining consistent revenue. This is why in some instances, though it may be difficult, you may need to fire a member of your staff for the good of the practice as a whole.

Here are some practices to follow if you want to handle the situation carefully and to ensure you don’t end up in a legal battle further down the road.

Don’t rush into the decision

Firing someone on instinct and emotion is never good for any party involved. Before you decide to let a member of your staff go, take a second to consider all the factors.

For example, what are the repercussions of firing this person on your daily operations, your staff and your reputation in the community? Is this person’s behavior detrimental to the long-term health of the practice? Do you need to make a larger point to your staff members?

Taking a moment to think things through and not act on impulse will help you make the right decision.

Consult a lawyer

Before letting go of any members of your staff, consult with a lawyer so you are crystal clear on the rights of both parties in the given situation. Remember that it’s not necessarily what has happened that is important when it comes to a court of law, it’s what can be proven, so you need to be careful.

Give adequate warning

Both the person who is being let go and other members of staff will look for consistency in your behavior. If there have been ample warnings about their behavior or incompetence, then they’re much less likely to view your actions as inconsistent and it won’t compromise your trust as a leader. Often it is not the firing that causes people to retaliate negatively, it is the shock or feelings of injustice.

Keep in mind that if you fire a member of staff unexpectedly, this will cause anxiety amongst other members of staff. They might begin to wonder if the same could happen to them, and an anxious working environment is a lot harder to run than a relaxed and friendly one.

Conduct the final meeting with dignity

 No one likes to be fired, but even more so than that, no one likes to be disrespected. Make sure the meeting you have in which you notify the employee of their termination is done at an appropriate time and in an appropriate place. Don’t rush the meeting, schedule it in advance and give it ample time, and when you’re explaining your decision do so clearly and focus on the facts – highlight the overall mission of the practice, and not your personal opinion or feelings towards that person.

Letting go of staff can be a difficult task. Make sure you don’t get caught with legal issues that can damage the value and profitability of your practice by following the above protocol.

Have you had any experience with having to let dental staff go? Let us know in the comments.


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3 Common Barriers to an Effective Dental Team

A strong team is the backbone of a successful dental business.

Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, there can be miscommunication’s between dentists and dental staff.

Whether you are looking to sell your practice, or you are interested in having a cohesive operation in the short term, an efficient team is important.

Here are 3 common barriers that can get in the way of an effective dental team.

  1. You’re trying to hire (and not train) the best team

This is one of the most common mistakes in dental practices.

It’s easy to assume that there are always enough people out there that are competent at the job that you’re offering.

More often than not, however, it’s difficult to find staff that are well trained in all areas of your business. And even if they are trained, they’re not familiar with your particular protocols and won’t yet know how to be efficient in your office.

Fortunately, staff are easier to train than most managers assume, so if you make an effort to hire intelligent and ambitious people with potential, it will go a long way to the establishment of an effective team.

  1. You’re not looking at training as a never-ending process

A second error that’s often made by dentists is when new staff members are brought in and their training is limited.

While there is something to be said for letting staff members stand on their own two feet when it comes to responsibilities, it’s common practice that dentists will not invest enough time in truly training their staff.

They may point them in the direction of a resource, or they may show them a practice and then expect them to get on with it, but to empower staff you must be willing to put in the hours to help them develop their skills.

  1. You don’t have clear communication protocols in place

Communication is vital to keeping your operation running smoothly.

You must constantly ensure that your team is aware of any changes and advances in the practice. Weekly meetings are advised to keep the team on the same page.

It’s important that every member of staff goes to work knowing what is expected of them and what is happening in the practice that day.

Implement a clear hierarchy and protocols with which all staff members are familiar, so issues are brought forward to the right people at the right time. Clear expectations are key to limiting personal issues between employees and minimizing operational mistakes.

An effective dental team is important for a prosperous practice. And if you are going through a dental practice transition, some buyers may want to keep the same staff, in which case their chemistry becomes a huge asset.


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Tips To Market Your Practice for Back To School

The start of the new school year is an incredibly busy time for parents.

As they get ready to get back into the swing of things, it can be difficult to get everything organized.

For the busy parent, it often feels like there is too much to do and too little time. They might get an itchy feeling that there’s something more that needs to be done.

Fortunately, this presents an opportune time for you to offer your dental services.

If you are looking to add value to your practice through increased efforts targeting kids and parents during this time of year, there are some pretty simple but effective ways to do so.

Here are five different ways you can market your practice for back to school specials.

Step up your social media efforts. Creating useful blog content and promoting back to school services through your social media channels is the quickest way to remind families of your practice. Though parents will be busy and it will be hard to grab their attention, there is one thing that you can be sure of – if they have social media, they will be on it. However, new changes in the algorithms to platforms such as Facebook and Instagram mean that parents won’t always catch your posts so don’t be afraid to post frequently!

Print a physical leaflet. Emails are a great way to offer discounts, but there is something to be said about leaflets. Creating something with color that will likely be left on a table at home could showcase your services to other families who have similar aged kids.

Request patient referrals. Many dentists are a little shy about asking for referrals directly, but if you have made sure that your patient has had a positive experience, they will be more than happy to recommend you. This is because they know that they’re doing a favor for their friends, who understand the stresses that come with taking children to the dentist.

Create and promote special offers. A lot of parents know that going back to school is a time when they have to spend money. Books, clothes, haircuts, these are all things that add up and can put a certain strain on some families. This is why during this time they’ll be more conscious of saving money and they may be more attracted to the idea of a discount.

Send out an email newsletter. Remind families of your services and let them know that you have back to school offers available by sending out an email newsletter. The letter can include brushing, flossing and nutrition tips, while simultaneously generating leads to fill your appointment calendar.

Whether you are looking to hold on to your practice or are even considering selling, showcasing a variety of ways to generate profit throughout the year is always an effective way to demonstrate value to a prospective buyer.

Have you had any experience marketing back to school specials? Let us know in the comments.


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